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Escaped circus monkey & a menagerie: Zoo Boise has a colorful history, future

This story is an excerpt from our new book Boise: City of Trees, available for purchase NOW! Order here.

Inside Julia Davis Park, Zoo Boise is home to more than 300 animals from 100 different species. 

Today, the zoo is owned by the City of Boise and managed by Boise Parks and Recreation and Friends of Zoo Boise, a non-profit organization. But more than a few stories endure of the zoo’s founding in 1916. The first bit of lore is that an escaped circus monkey was found outside of Mountain Home and brought to Boise. The second is that someone donated a menagerie of birds to the city. Both hold some truth, according to Friends of Zoo Boise’s Jeff Agosta.

The zoo’s main mission is to raise money for conservation efforts around the globe. In fact, Zoo Boise was the first American zoo to create an automatic conservation fee built into zoo admission. From 2007 to 2022, visits and donations to Zoo Boise helped to raise over $3 million for wildlife conservation. Funds have gone to areas as varied as Boise foothills and Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The link between Gorongosa and Boise is strong — so strong that the zoo launched a large expansion in 2019 themed to the park.

Agosta says Zoo Boise works to incorporate modern conversation and animal treatment standards.

 “Zoo Boise is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums – the gold standard for zoos,” Agosta said. “We participate in about 50 Species Survival Plans and partner with organizations all around the world to help protect wild places and animals.”

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Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporter
Anna Daly - BoiseDev Reporterhttps://boisedev.com/author/annadaly/
Anna Daly is a reporter for BoiseDev. She's an Emmy-winning journalist, and a professor at the College of Western Idaho. Contact her at [email protected].

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